ND Gov. Doug Burgum inspires, challenges oil and gas industry

By Patrick C. Miller | July 18, 2017

Speaking at the Bakken Conference & Expo in Bismarck on Tuesday, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum issued four challenges to the state’s oil and gas industry.

Burgum wants oil production in the state to reach 2 million barrels per day; zero oil spills; partnerships with North Dakota’s coal industry aimed at carbon capture and using CO2 for enhanced oil recovery; and partnerships with capital formation focused on using the state’s natural gas resources to produce more value-added products.

“It looks like a big order, but you guys have done so much in the last 10 years that we know this industry is capable of doing more,” Burgum said. “And you’re going to have a partner in North Dakota that will be focused on innovation—not regulation—while you’re getting it done.”

Appearing at the Bismarck Events Center before nearly 500 conference attendees, Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford talked about their roots in business. Sanford is the former mayor of Watford City, North Dakota, which experienced explosive growth during the Bakken boom.

“When we think about the Bakken, we think about innovation, we think about entrepreneurs and we think about people risking capital,” said Burgum, who became governor in December 2016 after his first run for public office.

He referenced the protests in the state over the Dakota Access Pipeline in calling on the industry to pursue a goal of zero oil spills. In May, Burgum launched an effort between government and industry to examine innovative methods to prevent oil spills, including the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for pipeline monitoring and spill detection.

“It’s interesting to be in a timeframe now where protest sort of goes hand-in-hand with industry and hand-in-hand with government,” he said. “That’s the environment that we’re living in. We’re living in a 24/7 news cycle. We’re living in an environment where people have little tolerance for ideas that don’t match their own.”

Burgum noted that 84 gallons of oil leaking from the Dakota Access Pipeline during its startup phase received international news coverage while near the same time, a collision in western North Dakota in which two people were killed and truck spilled 8,000 gallons of oil received little attention outside the state’s borders.

“When we’re in a zero-tolerance world, we have to be smarter than ever. That was the challenge we put forward for the pipeline group,” he said.

Addressing the challenge of North Dakota reaching a goal of producing 2 million barrels of oil a day, Sanford said, “We feel like this is something where we can rapidly increase the production and those impacts stay low because we did the hard work at the beginning. We had to get the infrastructure in the ground for the communities and the oilfields. We’ve got a lot of the base part of the play done. So now we have to figure out how to survive in this world of $45 oil.”

Burgum called on the state’s oil and gas industry to form partnerships and collaborate on ways to take advantage of North Dakota’s energy resources to turn the commodities it produces into value-added products.

“There is an opportunity with the energy we have here to drive industrial processes with the natural gas we have,” he explained. “We know there are opportunities, whether it’s a plastics plant or a fertilizer plant. We really want to be adding more value to the natural resources that we’re producing here before we ship them out of state.”

The Bakken Conference & Expo concludes Wednesday afternoon.